CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CONGREGATIONS OF BELIEVERS

CHAPTER TWO (Lesson XLVII)

Some fifty years after Adam Clarke wrote his commentary, another brilliant British scholar, Andrew Mclaren, preached his non-conformist view of what Paul was saying here. Mclaren sees a bundle of paradoxes in verse twenty. The first paradox is that the Christian life is a dying life. If we are in any real sense in union with the Anointed One, the power of His death makes us dead to self and sin and the world. In the spiritual, as in the physical, death is the gate of life; and, inasmuch as what we die to in the Anointed One is itself only death to bring life. We then live because we died. But we fully live in proportion to how we fully died.

The next paradox is that the Christian life is a life in which the indwelling Spirit of the Anointed One overcomes our old-self so that it may bring to life our new-self. We gain ourselves when we lose ourselves. His abiding in us does not destroy but heightens our individuality. We then most truly live when we say, “It is not I, but the Anointed One lives in me;” and became the soul of my soul and the self of my self.

And the last paradox is that the true Christian life moves in two spheres at once. What we see and what we cannot see. We are still alive in the flesh, but that life is really lived in faith. It belongs not to the material nor is dependent upon the physical body in which we are housed. We are now pilgrims below looking forward to our new life above, and the true region and atmosphere of the Christian life is that invisible sphere of faith.

Mclaren concludes that what we read here in verse twenty is a Christian man’s frank affirmation of the secret of his own life. It is like a geological cutting, it goes down from the surface, where the grass and the flowers are, through the various strata, but it goes deeper than these, to the fiery heart, the flaming nucleus and center of all things. Therefore, it may do us all good to get a sample of our own hearts and see whether the strata there are conformable to those that are here.[1]

J. B. Lightfoot declares that the Law wore on its face the marks of its temporary character. Its prophecies foretold the Anointed One. Its sacrifices and other typical rites foreshadowed the Anointed One. It was, therefore, quite appropriate when the Anointed One met Paul on the road to Damascus and took the Law’s place as his Master.[2] However, the Law was the slave master who kept Saul in bondage whereas the Anointed One was the Master who set Paul free. So now why should Paul live his life any longer in the same mode he lived it under the Law? There is no reason, so he is living his life for the Anointed One’s sake and to His honor out of gratitude for setting him free. This was the example Paul was trying to get the Galatians to follow because they owed the Anointed One the same thanks as Paul did.

Charles Spurgeon commented that Paul here in verse twenty looks at the matter of salvation from the point of view suggested by grace. If any person deserved the right to say, “The Son of God, whom I loved, and to whom I gave myself,” it is the Apostle Paul. On another occasion, speaking of the Lord, he said, “Whose I am, and whom I serve;”[3] but here he thinks not of himself, or of what he was led to do for the Lord, but only of what the Lord did for him. He dug down to the foundation of salvation; he traced the stream of grace back to the fountainhead; and, therefore, he spoke of “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

Then Spurgeon recalls a poem that he read but does not remember its source. Nevertheless, it should be very inspiring to all who love their Savior as much as He loves them:

 

Three blessed sunbeams, guiding all I see.

Three tender chords, each full of melody.

Three healing leaves, balm for my agony.

He loved me – the Father’s only Son,

He gave Himself – the precious, Spotless One;

He shed His blood, and thus the work was done.

He loved, not merely pitied. Here I rest:

Sorrow may come, I to His heart am pressed.

What should I fear while sheltered on His breast?

Wonder of wonders! Jesus loved me!

A wretch! Lost, ruined, sunk in misery!

He sought me, found me, raised me, set me free.

My soul, the order of the words approve,

the Anointed One first, me last: nothing between but love.

Lord, keep me always down – Yourself above!

Trusting to You – not struggling restlessly,

So shall I daily gain the victory:

“I” – “yet not I, but the Anointed One” – WHO LOVED ME.[4]

And finally, Spurgeon also comments on verse twenty in one of his meditations. The subject is how often Jesus referred to “love.” We are to love one another even as He loved us.[5]  Paul talks here about how the Son of God loved him so much that He willingly gave up life in His body so that He could live in Paul’s body. That’s why Paul says it wasn’t he who was living now in his flesh, but the Anointed One living in him. So, says Spurgeon, it’s hard to talk of love in order to give it meaning. Love is an act of the will and must be demonstrated in order to prove its existence.

Spurgeon then notes how often our eyes filled with tears when we realized the thought that Jesus loves us! How it affected our spirit with His assurance that He thinks of us and bears us in His heart! But try as we may, we cannot duplicate the same emotion for others, nor give by word of mouth so much as a faint idea of the bliss which lies within the exclamation, “Oh, how He loves me!” Today we sing a similar refrain in the chorus: “Oh, how He loves you and me, Oh, how He loves you and me. He gave his life, what more could He give? Oh, how He loves you; Oh, how He loves me; Oh, how He loves you and me.”

Trying to define love, says Spurgeon, is like describing a vast ocean without being able to see down into its depths. Doesn’t it make you gasp for air knowing that the Son of God should love you so much that He would die so that you could live? It should make us unfold the wings of our spirit in a flame of admiring and adoring gratitude! Spurgeon then breaks out in another song to make his point.

 

There is singing up in Heaven
such as we have never known,
Where the angels sing the praises
of the Lamb upon the throne,
Their sweet harps are ever tuneful,
and their voices always clear,
O that we might be more like them
while we serve the Master here!Refrain
Holy, holy, is what the angels sing,
And I expect to help them make the courts of Heaven ring;
But when I sing redemption’s story, they will fold their wings,
For angels never felt the joys that our salvation brings.[6]

O you angels, cries out Spurgeon, such love as this you never knew! Jesus does not bear your names upon His hands or call you His bride. No! this highest fellowship He reserves for worms whose only return is tearful, hearty thanksgiving and love.[7]

G. W. Gonder of Home Missionary Institute in England (1840-1842) wants us to imagine a person who is living for themselves without any thought of God or any earnest effort to serve or please Him. Living to gratify only their own tastes, passions, desires, and no one else’s. Interested only in their rules, their aspirations, their self-satisfaction, their goals, as their own god. This is not just a caricature, but a true picture of such a person who claims they are living for God. Take a long look at a person such as this. Observe them closely. Here is a person whose whole principle, guideline, motive, aim, and end, is “self.”

But now, let’s look at them again. Only this time as they, emerge, as it were, from the Anointed One’s tomb with the Anointed One, their hand in the Savior’s hand, surrendering to the loving request of the Lord to go with Him to God the Father; to confess their sin, and be forgiven. How completely different is the look on their face! How humbly they follow the Lord instead of the stiff resistance they put up before. How softened is their demeanor compared to their prior look of pride? Certainly, that unyielding spirit of self-absorption must have been cast out of them and left behind him in the empty grave of the Anointed One. It is not the same person. Now it’s God! God’s law! God’s favor! His pardon, His help, and guidance that used to mean nothing to them is now everything to them. If they could, they might be so entranced with their relationship with the Anointed One, they would never dream of departing from Him. Instead, if they could they might stay there forever gazing into their Savior’s eyes, never to look at anything else as long as they live.[8]

[1] Alexander. McLaren’s Commentary (Expositions of Holy Scripture) 32 Books In 1 Volume.: An Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Kindle Location 137468-137482), Kindle Edition.

[2] J. B. Lightfoot: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 245

[3] Acts of the Apostles 27:23

[4] Charles Spurgeon: Sermon # 2370 titled, “the Anointed One First, Me Last: Nothing Between but Love,” Text: Galatians 2:20, Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England, Thursday evening, May 10, 1888

[5] John 13:34; 15:12

[6] There Is Singing Up in Heaven, by Johnson Oatman (1897). Song was also published in some hymnals as “Holy, Holy, Is What the Angels Sing.”

[7] Charles Spurgeon: Till He Comes, Communion Meditations and Addresses, Fragrant Spices from the Mountains of Myrrh, p. 52

[8] G. W. Gonder: On Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., The Biblical Illustrator – Vol. 48 – Kindle Locations 5432-5441

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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